Bookmark and ShareAndy Wimbush is nef‘s Communications Assistant and blogmaster.

Who really picks up the bill for climate change? (Hat-tip to Climate Safety)

It’s always the poorest who end up paying, even though they’ve enjoyed very few of the things which have contributed towards our burgeoning ecological debt.

Debates about population growth and climate change continue to make headlines, despite all the evidence which puts the blame squarely on rich world consumption levels, rather than fertility rates in the developing world. nef recently published The Consumption Explosion, a report which seeks to ‘defuse’ theories about population explosion by showing the ecological costs of trade and consumption in the rich world.

As the film makes clear, the carbon footprints of people in rich, industrialised nations – such as Germany, the UK or the US – dwarf those of developing nations. A man or woman living in the United States will, by 4am in the morning of 2 January, already have been responsible for carbon emissions equivalent to what someone in living in Tanzania would generate in an entire year. A UK citizen would reach the same point by 7pm on 4 January.

New Scientist‘s Fred Pearce, who contributed to The Consumption Explosion, writes:

the world’s richest half billion people – that’s about 7 per cent of the global population – are responsible for 50 per cent of the world’s emissions. Meanwhile, the poorest 50 per cent are responsible for just 7 per cent of emissions. One American or European is more often than not responsible for more emissions than an entire village of Africans.

Every time those of us in the rich world talk about too many babies in Africa or India, we are denying our own culpability. It is the world’s consumption patterns we need to fix, not its reproductive habits.

And if you think you don’t fall into the richest 7% of the world, it’s always worth checking.